When you start a new job, you probably realize the first three months are critical to your long-term success. Everybody's eye is on the "newbie" as you learn the ropes. "Does anybody want to go to lunch?" is the wrong thing to say in a run-during-lunch or never-leave-the-desk culture.
You may begin your job by reading a stack of manuals. Or you may dive right in to fix a crisis or install a much-needed systemd.
Your first step...Logical first steps, right? Wrong! Your very first step should be to set up a meeting with your boss to find out what will count in your new job.
What You Need to Know
* What does your boss expect: outcomes, budget, and dates. Be as specific as possible.
-If you're designing a training program, by what date will you have brochures? Attendees?
-Will participant evaluations of the program influence your own evaluation?
* What is the next step in your career path?
-How can you prepare yourself for promotion?
* Does your company evaluate by numbers, e.g., 5 is outstanding and 3 is average?
-If so, what would you need to demonstrate for a top score?
* Is your boss expected to "curve the grades?"
-If the boss is limited to three "outstanding" ratings out of ten people, learn whether the top scores have traditionally been awarded to the same people each year.
* Try to learn how your boss will be evaluated. You may not be able to ask directly but you can expect to be rewarded for helping your boss score points.
Begin keeping a record of your activities and accomplishments. Write entries every week, if not every day. Save evidence of accomplishments so you can be ready to document your performance.
Finally, as you learn the ropes, compare formal and informal rules.
Tom's boss said, "We want you to revitalize this product line." After considerable work, Tom managed to increase sales of a dying product. He was horrified to receive a "Below Average" evaluation. His company maintained the line as a loss leader. They wanted a caretaker, not a manager. Tom was the wrong person for that job.
Angela was hired "to raise standards and prominence" of a private college's new program. She soon realized the school needed money and she would be rewarded for increasing the number of tuition-paying students. She turned her efforts from program content to marketing. If she were uncomfortable in that role, she would have sought a new job.
The Bottom Line
Don't wait a six months or a year to find out what your boss expects. You may even be able to lay a foundation for these discussions during the hiring process.
Regardless, a supportive boss will welcome your initiative. Those who insist on vague standards ("hey, we all know what we're supposed to do") or feel insulted by the question ("are you worried I won't give you a fair shake?") are sending a loud, clear warning: "Danger ahead."
I offer one-to-one consultations on career strategy.
About The Author
Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D., is an author, speaker and career/business consultant, helping midlife professionals take their First step to a Second Career. http://www.cathygoodwin.com.
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